Coding Australian 13 and 1300 “tel:” numbers – 404 errors

Australia has six- and ten-digit local numbers that begin with 13 and 1300 respectively. The 13 xx xx numbers connect you to a local number in your city so it is a local call. The 1300 xxx xxx number is similar but is usually a single destination for the price of a local call. A problem arises with mobile browsers and link validation of such pages, by a crawler tool of your choice, or Google Search Console.

A normal landline phone would be coded as follows, always including the country prefix and with no spaces:

<a href=”tel:+61-3-9xxx-0111″>(03) 9xxx-0111</a>

This will not come up in a list of 404s.

However, a “tel:13xxxx” number cannot be rendered with a +61 prefix, else it will fail for callers in Australia. The solution is provided by RFC 3966 (RFCs are the standards that define the internet).

Reference: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3966

Attempted Solution

Such numbers must be coded with a “phone-context” containing the country prefix. This example uses “13”:

<a href=”tel:13xxxx;phone-context=+61″>13 xx xx</a>

Note: No spaces in the phone number inside the link href.

Close, but No Cigar

Success! But kind of.

During a trial implementation, we found that the mobile phone browser renders the number badly, but it works. Usually it should only display “13x xxx” (iOS adds a space to the non-spaced number in the href) but it shows as:

13x xxx;phonecontext+61
CancelĀ  Call

iOS

Error in iOS Safari

Android

Error in Android

Windows

Error in Windows Edge

This number can now be dialled from Australia and does not show as a 404 error in Screaming Frog. The question is now whether we can make the displayed number show as the following:

+61 13x xxx
CancelĀ  Call

Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts, because the only other option is to convince all the mobile browsers to display the number elegantly. I don’t think the USA has such numbers, so this might not seem like a high priority to many. In the meantime, we will put up with the 404 errors for such links.

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. SEO consultant.

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